One of the things I absolutely LOVE about living where we do is that the Rocky River is a park system. I honestly didn’t understand how rare and special that was in the Lake Erie region until I went to Elk Creek in PA. If you haven’t been to Elk Creek, it is a stream that is literally other peoples’ back yards. The river itself is public (for the most part) but you can be staring down a pod of steelhead and suddenly a lawnmower starts up in the yard behind you, startling you to turn around. The guy on the obnoxiously loud machine is friendly enough, waving to you and giving a nod. You tentatively wave back, trying to shake the feeling that you’re just playing nature boy in some random dude’s backyard. Its like camping out in the backyard as a kid. It’s a strange feeling, especially in that these aren’t extravagant houses like you’d find on rivers out west where the ranching descendants still hold their exclusive water rights to some of the best trout streams and fishermen across the world make it their life goals to own these properties. These are regular ol’ blue collar homes that just happen to be backed up against an absurdly plentiful small creek, sometimes only 5 or 6 feet across. If it weren’t for the high volume of hungry steelhead, I’d probably stay away from it; parts of it at least. There are some parts that are really pretty, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part you could hit a lot of the houses with a rock from the stream.
Prior to my first adventure to the Elk, I had fished the Rocky River almost exclusively. The majority of this river sits firmly within the Rocky River Reservation; a beautiful and lush forest with hilly hiking trails and pretty but sparsely developed picnic areas. The most development you’ll see along this stretch of river is a golf course and a Nature Center. Oh yeah, there’s a dog park too. Sure, there are some places where you can just wade into the water a few feet from the roadway above, but a great deal of the water is accessible only through a little hiking. Those parts tend to be my favorite locations.
There are a couple good holes and runs that aren’t far from the road, but I tend to pass them up in favor of spots that require a bit of exploring. Even if I’ve been there before, the fact that there isn’t a real trail to get there always gives me the feeling that I’m a little more alone. There are parts of this river that make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Places where although you didn’t hike several miles to get there, being in the place itself makes you feel like you might have. I love that. Truly love that.
I suppose I’ve been spoiled in that regard. Human hubris has paved its way over too many beautiful places. I’m so thankful that although the Rocky River has definitely been made accessible, it remains largely wild. I myself have run into beavers, herds of deer, and other assorted wildlife many times. I’ve even heard stories of fishermen stumbling onto coyotes (I love that they’re becoming commonplace in our region; the coyotes, not the fishermen).
There’s something special about the hike to a good fishing spot. In a time when we’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification and convenience, when you can buy food from all over the world at the corner store which you unnecessarily drive to because walking would be unheard of, there’s just something about putting in work to get somewhere remote. Robert Traver wrote “…In a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing what they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion.” I believe there’s a part of all of us that has a certain degree of distaste for what our everyday lives have become. Sure, we love the new technology and as a librarian, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t truly enjoy having access to a world of information through a small black box I keep in my pocket, but I feel as though my preference for those hard to reach places over the convenient fishing spots is my “small rebellion” against it all. Probably no one else cares about my rebellion. It’s not swaying any politicians to bulldoze the strip malls and plant trees or tear down the telephone lines that crowd our view of the sky from our homes. In its own small way, it reconnects me to what it is to be human. To be, for just fleeting moments, man amongst the world…instead of man despite it.